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Don Cherry & Krzysztof Penderecki: Humus - The Life Exploring Force (edit)

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Uploaded on Jan 28, 2011

This is an edited version of the first track off the album Actions made in 1971 by a group of musicians lead by Don Cherry and Kryzstof Penderecki. It's an awesome meeting of minds and sensibilities, producing some of the wildest, boldest music of the era. The orchestra included some of the best European free jazz musicians of the time (and all times) but music is a blend of influences and ideas, splicing together avant garde jazz, modern classical as well as traditional music. The CD version from 2002 is still available but in pretty limited numbers. Here's a BBC review:

Actions was recorded live in 1971 at Donaueschingen and features the "New Eternal Rhythm Orchestra" (especially assembled for this project to perform under the direction of Krystzof Penderecki and Don Cherry). The Orchestra were a veritable who's who of the then emerging European Free Jazz scene; Peter Brotzmann, Willem Breuker, Paul Rutherford and Han Bennink, plus Terje Rypdal, Kenny Wheeler and Tomasz Stanko are all in evidence.

These must have been very heady days indeed when 'serious composers' like Stockhausen and Penderecki could find a common ground with jazz players like those above. For whatever reasons the Classical composers were finding that their interests and working methods (structured improvisation, graphic scores, conduction and gesture as composition) were overlapping with like-minded musicians from an altogether different area, that of free jazz.

Meanwhile Don Cherry had come out from under the shadow of his mentor Ornette Coleman to spearhead the influence of the new found freedom (particularly in Scandinavia), whilst at the same time letting different folk musics seep into his musical DNA. So it should be little surprise to hear echoes of Turkish folk and classical Indian rhythms on Cherry's pieces ("Sita Rama Encores") interspersed with explosive passages of 'energy' playing.

The Penderecki piece ("Actions for Free Jazz Orchestra") explores the balance between composition and improvisation in a less playful yet no less meaningful way. Drones and extended techniques such as overblowing (which explore a concern with timbre) sit alongside brass chords which hang in the air as well as 4/4 walking bass. Apparently influenced by the Original Globe Unity Orchestra piece of 1967, "Actions" often sounds more overtly 'jazz' than that group; there are episodes that showcase the explosive playing of guitarist Terje Rypdal and saxophonist Brotzmann that will make your hair stand on end.

Sadly Cherry has passed on, and Penderecki's promised further pieces for the group didn't materialise. That said, the combustible influences that shaped both pieces are still relevant today and find echoes in the work of Butch Morris and myriad others. Oh, I've almost forgotten to say, (amongst all this talk of structure and influence) this is still damn fine music of any stripe that can be enjoyed without any prior knowledge of its participants whatsoever. Heady days indeed.

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